How can you get to the top of the search engines in your area? The answer may be cheaper and easier than you think.

Achieving top placement on Google or any other search engine can be both difficult and expensive. Even in small towns, you still may be competing for search-engine placement with your national firm, your local office, plus any other real estate companies who serve your area. You also compete against your local multiple listing service as well as Realtor.com.

To gain better exposure, you could use pay-per-click (PPC) ads.

How can you get to the top of the search engines in your area? The answer may be cheaper and easier than you think.

Achieving top placement on Google or any other search engine can be both difficult and expensive. Even in small towns, you still may be competing for search-engine placement with your national firm, your local office, plus any other real estate companies who serve your area. You also compete against your local multiple listing service as well as Realtor.com.

To gain better exposure, you could use pay-per-click (PPC) ads. The challenge is that PPC can be expensive. Furthermore, as Web marketing has evolved, Web users have become increasingly blind to PPC ads. Even if someone does click through, it doesn’t mean that you will generate a lead.  

You could hire a lead generation company and pay 25-35 percent of your commission for the leads they generate. The problem is other agents are competing for the same leads. You could also "buy a ZIP code" and receive all the leads for that location. Since many buyers and sellers contact agents 12 to 18 months before they are ready to transact business, an additional issue becomes how to manage these leads for long periods.

The first clues on how to compete in today’s Web 2.0 environment came from the blogosphere (the online universe of blogs). Bloggers such as Teresa Boardman (StPaulRealEstateBlog.com) use their blogs to bypass the Web marketing efforts of major real estate companies.

The reason for their success was simple: The search engines prefer a steady stream of photos and fresh content as opposed to static Web sites. Boardman also is one of the first agents to consistently focus on lifestyle. Her blog illustrates everything that is great about living in St. Paul.

Boardman’s blog is also an excellent example of hyperlocalism. The core concept has been around for years. Thousands of mega-producers have reached the top by having a geographical farm or serving a specific market niche such as golf course properties. The goal is to become the undisputed expert in this small market niche.

The same approach works on the Web today. Hyperlocalism is about specialization. Unless you’re in a very small market area, you can no longer afford to be all things to all clients. Instead, the strategy is to specialize to meet the needs of a specific group of potential clients.

The hyperlocalism model is simple. The national/regional brand establishes the corporate culture and value proposition. The office serves the same function for the overall market area it serves. The agents are responsible for becoming the go-to expert for the specific niche they serve. …CONTINUED

In the book "Marketing Warfare," authors Al Ries and Jack Trout argue that major players cannot and will not try to compete for small market niches. This is where becoming a specialist will translate into market dominance. Hyperlocalism (or hyperspecialization) represents the best way for you to climb to the top of the search engines. Here are some important tips:

1. Choose a brand and obtain a new URL that uses your hyperlocal niche. For example, you might obtain 10560CondosWestwood90024.com. This URL includes the property address, the city and the ZIP code of this particular high-rise condominium building. When someone searches on the Web, this site should come up whether the user searches the property address, the city or the ZIP code. The specificity helps the search engine recognize this is an excellent match for the users’ search.

2. Make your site a destination site. To have people visit your site regularly, even if they are not currently buying or selling, make your site about the local lifestyle. Lifestyle is the foundation upon which hyperlocalism is built. To illustrate, if your niche has large numbers of young families, focus on fun activities for small children. This could be an upcoming puppet show, swimming lessons for toddlers, or a holiday "parade" where the kids decorate their bikes and ride through the area together.

3. Use podcasts and video to build search-engine ranking. The search engines place a premium on fresh content. Video seems to rank the most highly, followed by podcasts. To strengthen your site, interview local business owners about what they do. See if they are willing to provide a coupon or some other item of value to your Web site visitors. You could also interview the local high-school football coach about the upcoming big game. The point is to be a lifestyle resource, not just a real estate resource.

4. Use social media. Create a fan page on Facebook for your hyperlocal niche (i.e. "90024 High-Rise Fans"). Invite people who love this lifestyle to post about what they enjoy. You host the fan page and engage in the conversation. Avoid sending marketing messages. Instead, stay focused on sharing what’s fabulous about living there. Post testimonials about other businesses that you feel would be a good fit for your market niche.

By following these steps, you will become the go-to expert for your market niche. This will result in higher search-engine placement, more traffic to your site and more closed transactions.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com and find her on Twitter: @bross.

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